Escalating ‘hate speech’ and fake speech concerns

Claimed hate speech continues to feature in political news in New Zealand, while in the US the growing threat of fake speech – or more accurately, falsifying the appearance of speech, raises concerns about what can be believed from video.

It was always contentious trying to define ‘hate speech’, and differentiate it from acceptable speech someone might hate to hear.  It becomes a real problem when people claim that criticism is some form of hate speech to distract from the criticism and try to turn it into a counter attack.

Stuff: ‘Hate speech’ politics row in Rotorua referred to police

A Mayoral candidate has been accused of age, gender and race-based “hate speech”, prompting a confidential council committee to recommended police involvement.

The political race hate stoush is brewing in Rotorua, with councillor Tania Tapsell branding online comments made by Mayoral candidate Reynold​ Macpherson as “totally unacceptable”.

The row centres on an online post made by Macpherson on the Facebook page of the Rotorua District Residents & Ratepayers’ (RDRR) lobby group on May 14.

The post, a response to a video in which Tapsell encourages more young people to stand for council, is entitled “Beware the charismatic pitch of the Pied Piper”.

“He has referenced me as a Pied Piper who lures away vermin and children and this level of hate speech is totally unacceptable,” Tapsell said.

She said the decision to refer the post to police was made by a confidential council committee, and while not at her request, she believes that “given the risk of harm to myself and others that was the right decision”.

“Charismatic pitch of the Pied Piper” doesn’t sound anywhere near close to hate speech to me. It could even be seen as a compliment. ‘Charismatic’ is a positive term.

I’m surprised Tapsell has belayed it as hate speech.

I’m astounded ‘a confidential council committee’ has referred it to the police, unless there is more to this that I am not seeing.

Tapsell, of Te Arawa and Tainui ancestry, also cited “verbal and physical threats” from members of the RDRR, and their opposition to Māori participation in council decision making through the now established Te Tatau o Te Arawa board.

“This post was just one example of his many age,gender and race-based attacks on council members,” she said.

“His rants have gone too far so I’m standing up for all the people who have been offended by his hate speech.”

A Rotorua Lakes Council spokesperson confirmed to Stuff that a complaint had been forwarded to police, “and it is now in their hands”

I don”t see anything age, gender or race-based in the Pied Piper comment. If this comes to anything with the police then our democracy is at risk.

Fake speech

A real concern for the present and future is fake speech – concocted video or audio misrepresenting what was said or how something was said. An example has flared up in the US.

Here yesterday David showed that people have been successfully fooled:

Listen to Pelosi live she literally sounds like she has had a brain injury at worst but certainly well past her use by date. Just as well she is a Democrat so the media dont say anything.

Donald Trump had given authenticity (to those who believe anything he promotes) to a video clip of Nancy Pelosi.

But this is dirty politics. Fox News: Manipulated videos of Nancy Pelosi edited to falsely depict her as drunk spread on social media

Numerous doctored video clips of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, are spreading on social media, deceptively portraying her as if she were intoxicated.

A three-minute clip of Pelosi speaking event with the Center for American Progress from Wednesday was uploaded on Facebook by a group called “Politics WatchDog” was viewed over 1.8 million times with nearly 40,000 shares. The video shows her frequently slurring her words and her voice sounding garbled. Copies of the clip had also been found on Twitter and YouTube, which the latter had removed.

According to a report from The Washington Post, experts believed the original video was slowed down to 75 percent from the original speed and that her pitch was also manipulated in order to present her under the influence.

Computer science and digital forensics expert Berkeley Hany Farid said there was “no question” the video had been tampered with.

“It is striking that such a simple manipulation can be so effective and believable to some,” he told the Washington Post.

Both Speaker Pelosi and President Trump have exchanged brutal insults at each other on Thursday. Pelosi expressed that she was “concerned” about the president’s “well-being.” Trump shot back, calling her a “mess” and claimed she was “disintegrating.”

Was the video created to attack Pelosi specifically in this stoush?

These days a deceit travels around the world very rapidly, and while it can eventually be debunked the damage can’t easily be undone. Snopes:

On 24 May 2019, a manipulated video that supposedly showed U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunkenly slurring her speech was widely shared on social media. One version of the post that the Facebook page “Politics Watchdog” shared was viewed millions of times.

It will still be circulating, and is likely to still be promoted even though it has been proven to be fake video.

This doctored video was shared by thousands of users on social media, including by Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s counsel, with the caption: “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.” (Giuliani’s tweet has since been deleted.)

Actually Trump’s tweet referred to a second doctored video.

This second video was not doctored in the same overt manner as the slurred-speech footage. Rather, this clip was created by selectively picking a few brief moments in which Pelosi paused or stumbled (totaling about 30 seconds) while answering questions from reporters, and then cobbled them together to give the impression that Pelosi was “stammering” through her news conference.

And Trump’s tweet has not been deleted.

Misrepresenting opponents via doctored video is not new, it has been happening for a long time. But improved video and animation technology, and the speed with which fake speech can be circulated, raises the risks of dirty politics of this type being used more.

So we have contrasting situations where some relatively benign speech is claimed to be far worse than it is. The ‘hate speech’ label has become a form of counter attack, and is itself a threat to free speech when it is used to try to discredit or deter free and open speech communications.

On the other hand there are real risks from doctored speech being used more as it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate it from the authentic and real speech.

That this thing has been done before is no excuse for it being done on an increasingly sophisticated and rapid manner.

Social media switches attacks to partner of MP, Kiwiblog prominent

Yesterday the social media bash wagon continued attacking Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, but also widened attacks to her partner Guy Williams, by dredging up historic tweets.

David Farrar chose to feed red meat to his baying crowd at Kiwiblog, further inflaming a nasty campaign against Ghahraman

Particularly this one.

Williams is a comedian, but that was a crap joke about Don Brash. Fair enough to criticise it.

But to bring it up nearly two years later to add to the Ghahraman pile on is also crappy.

Ghahrama’s past also keeps being dredged up and misrepresented (more than she misrepresented it herself) – for example I have seen a cropped photo of her and a criminal she was involved in defending as a lawyer.

David Farrar chose to include the two year old tweet in this post David Seymour on free speech – he claimed ” this tweet this morning” even though it is clearly dated September 11 2017, which was before Ghahraman became an MP.

Seymour used strong language about a political opponent (and they are not words I would use) but compare that to this tweet this morning:

Joking about running someone over because you don’t like their politics.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with Williams’ tweet by itself. But I ask people to imagine this.

Think if the partner of a National MP tweeted about whether they should run over a Green MP. The media would be denouncing it as hate speech and inciting violence.

Ghahraman does have legitimate security concerns, based on the vile messages about lynching her on a private Facebook group. The people responsible should be held accountable.

I think it was particularly poor of Farrar to include this tweet in an op ed by David Seymour that he posted.  He would have known this would have fed Kiwiblog commenters already at times raging rampant over his revised site rules.

Comments on the thread include:

Brian Marshall:

She is a menace to freedom. Huge threat.
If anyone can’t see what David Seymour is referring to, then I suggest they don’t belong in a New Zealand Parliament.
The most disgusting thing is that David Seymour is described as some sort of Nazi, but those proposing Hate Speech laws are acting like Fascists of which Nazi’s are branch.

hullkiwi:

I am in total agreement with you Brian. Her utterances on this topic and other matters are an affront to democracy and with it, she is a menace to democracy.

David Garrett:

Yeah but did she actually get death threats?? Please refer to my comment above… In short, if the polis think you have been credibly threatened they are in there for you…some little snowflake who thinks she’s been threatened: Not so much…

alien:

It is interesting that in a week that a report on bullying etc in parliament we see some of these people and media bullying the leader of the act party. I’m sure we’ve all heard these green mps say far far worse about national mps and a prime minister.

Given the levels of vitriole directed at Gharaman on Kiwiblog over the last few days that’s rather ironic, defending Seymour and implying ‘green mps’ must be far worse (with no evidence given).

Lipo:

As the discussion on Free Speech is being had, I heard Peter Williams this morning say that he thought Hate Speech should be decided by (and only by) the recipient of the intended words. While this has some merit I think this is wrong.
Hate speech should only be defined as “Hate Speech” by the person speaking the words.
It is always what the words meant to say not on how the recipient received them

That’s a novel approach.

I don’t know if Peter Williams is being quoted correctly, but claims like that are ridiculous, and Isee no chance of the scaremongering claims getting anywhere near law.

the deity formerly known as nigel6888:

So a refugee politician who specialises in abusing and baiting anyone who doesnt share her communistic objectives has managed to get a few cretins to abuse her back.

and……….. trumpets……….. she’s the victim!

Utterly remarkable for its predictable banality.

I have seen quite a few cretins claiming to be victims in this debate. Seems to be a common approach these days (prominently used by Donald Trump) – attack, then claim to be the victim.

GPT1:

I do not understand the carry on re. Seymour’s comment. I guess it could be argued that he should have said “her position on this issue is a threat to freedom” but it seemed to be a robust political – rather than personal – rebuttal.

As it happens I agree that Ms Ghahraman’s attempts to regulate free speech have the effect of being an attack on our free society.

‘Attempts to to regulate free speech” have been grossly overstated in this debate. Ghahraman has expressed her opinion, as has Seymour. That is free speech in action.

There is a lot of hypocrisy on this, defending Seymour’s right criticise as he sees fit, but attacking Ghahraman for doing the same thing, trying to shout and shut her down.

Defenders of Ghahraman also come under fire. Wangas Feral:

That Collins and other National women MPs jumped in as White Knights to come to the aid of GG is the most upsetting thing in this whole affair. Making it a gender issue shows that they are no better than the professional victims of the left. Collins has really gone down in my estimation now.

Kiiwiblog has always had a smattering of worthwhile comments amongst the noise. Fentex:

Finding someone representative of something relevant is needed to make the point – ideally DPF wants to find a quote by Golriz Ghahraman representing the position he wants highlighted.

And wouldn’t finding quotes from her supporting Seymour’s position she’s uniquely dangerous go some way to that?

This is what she’s quoted saying…

“it is vital that the public is involved in a conversation about what speech meets the threshold for being regulated, and what mix of enforcement tools should be used.”

…and I think she’s been vilified because that statement takes the implicit position there is speech that must be regulated.

While I beleive people do accept incitement to riot or murder is a crime and is properly outlawed and punishable I think some, and clearly Seymour, suspects Goriz means something altogether more oppressive and intrusive which constitutes a “menace to freedom.”

After all what we all broadly accept as improper speech (incitement to commit crimes etc) is already illegal, so therefore any conversation about new restrictions must be about something else – something not yet illegal.

I think I understand his point, and I suspect many objecting to his attitude misunderstand the subject and have interpreted it in a different context (i.e if they already suspected Seymour of racism they may see different implications and meaning in his statement).

If you keep your eye on the subject and don’t let identities distract you there’s a continual ongoing debate about hateful speech and discussion of what might be done to avoid dangers it engenders*, but please don’t go haring off on tangents about different issues – it doesn’t help and only emboldens those who wish to use tactics of distraction and tribalism.

Maggy Wassilieff:

Ghahraman has made her position clear…
she believes our law does not protect groups identified by gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/112708601/we-need-laws-with-real-teeth-to-protect-our-online-safety

Ghahraman has stated what she believes, and we should be debating things like that. But we are nowhere near any sort of  legal clampdown on ‘free speech’ that some are claiming.

 

 

Seymour and ‘alt-right’ versus female MPs

Act MP David Seymour was stronly criticised – and supported – for comments he made about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, in particular “she is a real menace to freedom”.

“I just think that Golriz Ghahraman is completely wrong, I don’t know if she understands what she’s saying, but she is a real menace to freedom in this country, whether or not she understands that she is, and I think that it’s important that all right-thinking New Zealanders say “the true danger ah… to any society is rulers who put in place rules and regulations saying you’re not allowed to express yourself” – that’s how tyranny begins.

And I’d just invite people to have a look at speeches that Xi Jing Ping gives and speeches that Golriz Ghahraman gives, and it’s actually very difficult to tell the difference. I actually looked at a couple of paragraphs – one paragraph from each – I tried to guess which was which – and ah… Xi Jing Ping actually looked like a more liberal ah guy on this issue than Golriz Ghahraman.”

It was claimed that this contributed to an escalation in online attacks against Ghahraman which led to Parliament providing increased security for Ghahraman after she got more death threats.

Seymour and Judith Collins were interviewed by Sean Plunket: Judith Collins labeled ‘ageist’ as David Seymour attacks her defence of Golriz Ghahraman

Collins:

He referred to her as being a menace to society. I don’t think she is a menace to society. I think her views are not ones that I agree with, and I would agree with him on that. And I think that she is very illiberal when it comes to people’s freedom of speech but that bit does not mean to say that he needs to put it in such a personal way that he did, against her personally.

And my view is that parliament is a very tough place, but actually for some people it’s a lot tougher and she is someone who gives a lot of stuff back to people but she also, I think at the moment, is getting a lot more than what she deserves. And I just think it’s time we calmed down in parliament, and outside of parliament, and remembered that she is just a human being.

I have no problem with David doing what he does, except that if he does then he can expect me to make a comment about it.

So, actually, just like he wants to express his free speech, I am expressing mine, which is that we need to be a little bit kinder towards each other even when the other person has views entirely different from ourselves, and we don’t need to always make it so personal. That’s my feeling.

Seymour was unrepentant:

If people think that me saying that a politician who wants to expand the powers of the state to decide what you’re allowed to say and when they hear me say it, think that the way I say it is more important than the issue of freedom of speech then I think that person has their priorities wrong.

And I do think that a politician who wants to put stricter boundaries around what people are allowed to say, when they genuinely believe it, is a menace, not to our society, but to give me my proper quote, to freedom in our society. Because that is how tyranny begins and I think we should be a lot more worried about that, than how exactly it is said.

The counter claim has been that stoking up abuse and attacks against an MP, deliberately or not, is also a menace to society.

Yesterday from 1 News: Speaker Trevor Mallard says David Seymour bullied Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman

When asked by TVNZ1’s Breakfast host John Campbell if the comments made by Mr Seymour on radio show Magic last week were bullying, he responded “yes”.

“In my opinion that did step over the line,” Mr Mallard says. “It’s not a breach of privilege because it didn’t happen in the House. It’s not a criminal offence but I think it showed poor judgement.”

He said bullying needed to be called out, and said it was leaders and senior staff who needed to step up against bullying.

Seymour responded: Free speech debate shows hate speech laws are a bad idea

The response to my recent comments on free speech proves we cannot trust government to enforce hate speech laws”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Speaker Trevor Mallard is the latest to denounce my views and try to shut down any criticism of those who would take away our right to freedom of expression.

“Imagine if the state had even greater powers to punish speech at its disposal.

“The Government, emboldened by the Twitter mob, would now be using that power to investigate and punish a sitting MP’s genuinely-held views.

“Hate speech laws turn debate into a popularity contest where the winners get to silence views they don’t like by using the power of the state.

“We find ourselves in an astonishing situation: an MP can vigorously campaign to take away our right to freedom of expression, but, if another MP criticises them, Parliament’s Speaker says they are a bully.

“Freedom of expression is one of the most important values our society has. It cannot be abandoned because anyone, let alone Parliament’s Speaker, weighs in with accusations against anyone who defends it.

“ACT will continue to defend the critical principle that nobody should ever be punished by the power of the state on the basis of opinion.”

Calling out bullying speech is also free speech. As a number of female MPs have done:

Newshub: Women MPs urge David Seymour to apologise for Golriz Ghahraman remarks

A cross-party group representing women in Parliament has urged David Seymour to apologise for remarks he made about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Signed by Labour MP Louisa Wall and National MP Jo Hayes – co-chairs of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) New Zealand group – the letter asks that Seymour “reflect” on his “behaviour”.

“We ask that you reflect on your behaviour and consider offering a public apology to Golriz for the comments made, preferably in the House,” the letter addressed to Seymour reads.

The co-chairs said they’d received requests from members of the CWP group urging them to “take appropriate action” on their behalf in response to comments made by Seymour “in reference to a member of the House, Golriz Ghahraman”.

The letter acknowledged how Seymour didn’t make the comments in Parliament and couldn’t be held to account by Standing Orders – the rules of procedure for the House.

But it went on to tell Seymour: “We, as women MPs, consider your behaviour towards a colleague who has been under attack with death threats and is already in a vulnerable position is unacceptable”.

Again Seymour was unrepentant.

Seymour responded to the letter saying he was “disappointed” to receive it, and that the group “seem to believe that expressing a sincerely held view on an important topic makes me responsible for threats of violence”.

Seymour said the comments he made “do not come close to giving me such responsibility”, adding: “Your belief would absolve the real perpetrators, those making the threats, of responsibility.

“You also introduce a worrying implication that some MPs are unable to fully participate or be criticised because there are violent threats. You are effectively letting violent thugs set the agenda.”

No, they are trying to confront violent thugs from setting the agenda.

Seymour is getting into very risky territory here. He is appealing to the alt-right in social media but I think may be being fooled by how much voter support this might represent.

It has been reported that Act intends rebranding as a party this year. Seymour seems to be already attempting a rebranding.

But I think he would do well to consider the responsibilities of how an MP speaks in relation to free speech, especially when associated with hate speech.

For MPs, what they say can have consequences. They can give credence and support to abusive minorities. And they can also affect voter support. If Seymour lurches too far alt-right he risks becoming too toxic for National to make it easy for him in Epsom.

 

Q+A: free speech versus hate speech

On NZ Q+A last night Labour MP Louisa Wall and Act MP David Seymour debate free speech versus hate speech.

Louisa Wall:

We need tighter laws because I believe hate does exist, and hate breeds racism. It also breeds sexism, misogyny, homophobia.

And from my experience we haven’t really looked at whether out current legislation is fit for purpose, and specifically section 61 of the Human Rights Act, which is what I took the old Nesbitt cartoons in 2013 to the Human Rights Commission. So that was about racial disharmony.

But in fact I think civil disharmony has now become an agenda item that we all are investigating.

David Seymour:

I find it detestable that people target each other based on their race or their gender or their sexuality, and I’ve got a track record for that, when the Labour Party went through the phone book and targeted people for having Chinese sounding names I was the first politician to stand up to that. When the New Zealand First Party said that Kanwaljit Bakshi and Melissa Lee should go home to their home countries I stood up to that.

My concern is that, free expression is one of the most important  parts of the human condition. We all experience the world differently, and we should be able to talk about that and express our thoughts and feelings.

Secondly, not only is it a very important human value, but it’s an important part of how we work through our troubles as a society, so if you look at the places in the world that have managed to actually fight bigotry and racism, it’s the places where we actually allow people to discuss their differences and work through them on the basis that sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will not hurt me.

1 News cover:  MPs David Seymour and Louisa Wall clash over Israel Folau case during hate speech debate

Mr Seymour called the Australian rugby player’s anti-gay Instagram post “so ridiculous” and Ms Wall hit back that it’s not ridiculous if you’re a young gay person coming out.

“You’ve had a series of really quite absurd cases where people have been spoken to by the police for things they said on Twitter. And yet as they’ve measured it, the amount of hateful rhetoric in the UK has increased there too,” Seymour said.

“So I’m just not convinced that these laws will work, and they can actually create cynicism.”

“Can I give you the example of Israel Folau. Now what the guy recently put on Instagram is that if you’re gay, when you die you will go to a fiery pit in the ground. I mean it’s so ridiculous. He’s been ridiculed…”

Ms Wall interrupted saying, “It’s not ridiculous if you’re a young gay person, David, who’s coming out. And he has done this three times. Last year when he said it there was nationwide and also Australian wide condemnation.”

Seymour: “Look, you know if he had had the Australian police show up at his door and say, ‘we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to discipline you’ or whatever, I think he would have actually instead of being ridiculed around the world as he was, quite rightly, I think he actually could have become a martyr.

“And that’s what’s happened to some extent in the UK. You can actually end up creating more resentment with these kinds of laws.”

Ms Wall said she believed tighter hate speech laws would have prevented the Christchurch attack, saying “we would have been able to call them out”.

“We need tighter laws because I believe hate does exist. And hate breeds racism. It also breeds sexism, misogyny, homophobia,” she said.

I think that Wall is right, hate speech can normalise attacks on groups of people, it can encourage and incite more hate speech.

But I don’t think it is possible to claim that tighter speech laws would have prevented the Christchurch massacres. They may have helped prevent the attacks, but they may have made no difference, and they may even have made an person like Tarrant more determined to attack.

The full debate:

 

Ghahraman: “laws with real teeth to protect our online safety”

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is active online, and is a frequent target of abuse and threats that go well beyond what is reasonable and acceptable for an MP or for anyone, which includes death threats (something I have also been subjected to in a more limited way). See Online threats against Ghahraman continue.

One of the biggest problems is attacks on people who identify themselves by people hiding behind anonymity.

This context should be kept in mind when reading her say “We need laws with real teeth to protect our online safety”.

We have seen all over the world that free speech, equality, and democracy are not bulletproof. These pillars of society are easily threatened by the incitement of hatred against targeted groups. We know that speech, fake news, and abuse lead to very real violence and sometimes death. Everyone has a huge interest in ensuring harmful and abusive content is appropriately regulated.

Not everyone – what I believe is a small minority seem to think they have a right to be as abusive as they choose online, without limitation or repercussion.

The Human Rights Act already makes “threatening, abusive or insulting words … likely to incite hostility or contempt” unlawful against racial, ethnic, and national groups. This is not about whether anyone is offended, or disagreement with given points of view. It is an objective standard of harm, as it should be.

Freedom of expression is protected in our Bill of Rights Act, together with freedom from discrimination, freedom of thought, culture and religion, and the rights of minority groups to enjoy their culture. These rights are mutually supportive in a democracy that values freedom and equality, and can only be subject to limits that are “demonstratively justified in a free and democratic society”.

Last year, knowing the experiences of vulnerable groups, threatened and silenced by hate speech, I began the call for an independent review of our laws. Now, the Green Party is proud to support the review of hate speech laws initiated by Justice Minister Andrew Little, conducted by the Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Justice.

We do not want a change to the current definition, or to lower the standard in our existing law. What I see as a shortfall is that our law does not protect groups identified by gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Including these groups would bring our law in line with the European Union and Canadian hate speech laws.

I have a bit of a problem with the focus on specific minority groups. We are all members of various minority groups. Laws should apply to any sort of unacceptable behaviour, regardless of who it is aimed at.

I’m seen as a member of a currently much maligned large minority, white male, and a smaller group, older white male. I have been the target of despicable abuse online.

I should have the same legal protections that anyone else has. In my experience these protections have been inadequate.

My other concern is that our enforcement mechanisms are insufficient, especially for online content. Protection against hate speech is currently enforceable through challenges brought by victims to the Human Rights Tribunal, the only recourse being mediation. That’s fairly impractical and unsafe for most victims or victim groups – and it does nothing to broadly curb violent radicalisation on fringe online platforms.

It’s far too slow. It can take months to go through the Human Rights Tribunal, which makes it far too late (and too little).

Governments need to take responsibility, set clear standards, and enforce them. We need laws to protect online safety with some real teeth. In Germany, that means online platforms like Facebook are treated like publishers and fined billions for allowing dangerous unlawful content. Germans know where hate speech leads.

Germans also know what can happen when good speech is suppressed and punished.

It is a proud moment for New Zealand to see the commitment of our prime minister to lead on the issue of online regulation. The Paris forum must ask how the global community can best respond to the growth of online platforms that promote extremism or abuse against women and minority groups, spread mistruths that undermine democracy, and inspire violence.

This is an important issue for our democracy, and it is vital that the public is involved in a conversation about what speech meets the threshold for being regulated, and what mix of enforcement tools should be used. It’s a matter of acknowledging that online spaces are where we live our lives now, and that the forces threatening our security, global and local, are already there. Turning a blind eye is no longer an option.

I agree that we can’t turn a blind eye to online abuse and attacks, and neither should the Government.

But it will be tricky getting the right balance.

I mostly agree with what Ghahraman says here. I have had my doubts that she was a good MP to be campaigning against online hate and abuse, and her experiences mean she is personally involved and not unbiased, but her experiences are also valuable in trying to work out how to deal with online abuse.

 

How to regulate the Internet (vaguely)

How to fix speech on the Internet? It will take a lot more than this.

Jordan Carter (chief executive, InternetNZ) and Konstantinos Komaitis (senior director, global policy development and strategy, at the Internet Society) give some general ideas on how the Internet might be regulated to try to prevent it from being exploited by terrorists and extremists – How to regulate the internet without shackling its creativity

At its most basic, the internet is a decentralised technology, a “network of networks” that spans the globe, moving vast amounts of data and services. Its infrastructure layer is where protocols and standards determine the flow of data and enable independent networks to inter-operate voluntarily. A healthy infrastructure layer keeps opportunities open for everyone, because it is where unhindered innovation happens; where we build the technologies and the businesses of tomorrow.

The Christchurch terrorist did not put up a server to broadcast the video. Instead, he used the tools offered by the platforms most of us enjoy innocently. In other words, he did not directly use the internet’s infrastructure layer, but applications that run on top of it.

And this is exactly where the disconnect is. Most new rules and government intervention are spurred by illegal content that happen on the top layer of the internet’s infrastructure – the applications layer, where content exists and proliferates. Yet these rules would have sweeping implications for the infrastructure layers as well.

Interfering with the infrastructure layer, even unintentionally, to fix problems at the content layer creates unintended consequences that hurts everyone’s ability to communicate legitimately and use the internet safely and securely. The internet is a general-purpose network, meaning it’s not tailored to specific uses and applications. It is designed to keep networking and content separate. Current regulatory thinking on how to address terrorist, extremist and, in general, illegal content is incompatible with this basic premise.

That’s why we urge all governments working to protect their citizens from future terrorist and extremist content to focus on the layer of the internet where the harm occurs. Seeking expertise is how governments should regulate in the internet, but including only certain companies in the process could be counterproductive. All this does is cement the market power of a few big actors while excluding other, critical stakeholders.

As world and tech industry leaders gather in France for the Christchurch Call, we ask them to focus on interventions that are FIT for purpose:

Fitting – proportionate, not excessive, mindful of and minimising negative and unintended consequences, and preserving the internet’s open, global, end-to-end architecture;

Informed – based on evidence and sound data about the scale and impact of the issues and how and where it is best to tackle them, using ongoing dialogue to deepen understanding and build consensus;

Targeted – aimed at the appropriate layer of the internet and minimising the impact on the infrastructure layer, whose openness and interoperability are the source of the internet’s unbounded creativity and a rich source of future human flourishing.

That’s ok as general advice, but it provides little in the way of specific ideas on how to regulate speech and media without stifling it’s strengths.

The biggest challenge remains – how to very quickly identify and restrict hate speech and use of the Internet by extremists, without impacting on the freedom to exchange information, ideas and artistry.

Even from my own very narrow experience I know that people intent on spreading messages that many people would object to can be very determined and go to some lengths to try to work around any restrictions imposed on them.

Kiwiblog recently put in place much more monitoring and clarified what was deemed unacceptable speech, but those stated restrictions were quickly flouted, so offending comments must be being passed by people now doing the moderating.

It will require either some very smart algorithms that are able to adapt to attempts to work around them,  or a lot of monitoring and occasional intervention that would require many people all with similar levels of good judgment.

Neither approach will be perfect. I have concerns that rushing to restrict bad speech will increase impediments for acceptable speech.

 

Andrew Little on the legal balance between freedom of speech and hate speech

Minister of Justice Andrew Little on freedom of speech versus protecting people from hate speech.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act affirms our right to freedom of expression, including the right to impart and receive opinions of any kind. Protecting freedom of speech is crucial to our democracy and the ability of all citizens to participate meaningfully.

But in the immediate wake of the March 15 mosque attacks, many citizens from minority ethnic and religious communities told of how opinions and statements they routinely see on social media and other public platforms make them feel threatened, unwelcome and alienated.

A responsible government must consider these claims, and on a principled basis.

Consequently I have asked the Ministry of Justice to work with the Human Rights Commission to examine whether our laws properly balance the issues of freedom of speech and hate speech. The process should not be rushed, and I expect a report for public comment towards the end of the year.

Drawing the line is not simple. Protecting freedom of speech that challenges authority and orthodoxy will inevitably still cause offence to some.

But just being offensive or disagreeable does not necessarily make something harmful. Controversial issues in New Zealand, such as immigration policy or indigenous rights and reconciliation with the Treaty of Waitangi, will continue to be the subject of public debate. And so they should.

Protecting our crucially important right to freedom of speech, while testing whether the balance is right regarding “hate speech”, needs a robust public discussion from all quarters. This way we will ensure that all of our citizens’ rights are protected, and every person can express their humanity without fear.

Clear definitions of ‘hate speech’ and ‘harmful’ will be crucial. In current law there is quite a high bar to prove ‘harmful’.

Note that this details an examination of whether current laws get the balance right or not. There is no certainty that the laws will be changed or not.

I think that many people have been jumping to conclusions and scaremongering about this.

The best way of dealing with it is to engage in process, to the extent of contributing to rational discussion on whether our current laws are fit for purpose.

Full op-ed at NZ Herald:


Hate speech threatens our right to freedom of speech

OPINION by Andrew Little

Protecting freedom of speech is vital to hold those in authority to account, challenge the socially and culturally dominant, and enable society to progress.

Freedom of speech can give force to new ideas, but also cause discomfort and offence. It is usually the first right to be lost under oppressive regimes, and among the first to be restored, at least in name, after revolutionary change.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act affirms our right to freedom of expression, including the right to impart and receive opinions of any kind. Protecting freedom of speech is crucial to our democracy and the ability of all citizens to participate meaningfully.

But in the immediate wake of the March 15 mosque attacks, many citizens from minority ethnic and religious communities told of how opinions and statements they routinely see on social media and other public platforms make them feel threatened, unwelcome and alienated.

Others have said these types of statements allow a climate to develop that is tolerant of harmful discriminatory expression.

A responsible government must consider these claims, and on a principled basis.

Consequently I have asked the Ministry of Justice to work with the Human Rights Commission to examine whether our laws properly balance the issues of freedom of speech and hate speech. The process should not be rushed, and I expect a report for public comment towards the end of the year.

The context for this stocktake is not just the horrific events in Christchurch, but also the history of free speech protection in New Zealand.

The reality is we already have laws to protect against what we call “hate speech”, which are the Human Rights Act and the Harmful Digital Communications Act. These criminalise incitement of racial disharmony through written or verbal expression, and refusal to remove social media posts which are bullying or include humiliating intimate information about someone.

Is it right that we have sanctions against incitement of disharmony on racial grounds but not, for example, on grounds of religious faith?

And how could there be any limitations on free speech, in light of the Government’s obligation under the Bill of Rights Act to protect it?

Our Bill of Rights draws on worldwide traditions to uphold basic human rights. The law has a close family link to one of the founding documents of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration upholds freedom of thought and religion and the right to hold opinions “without interference”. But, forged in an international effort determined to eliminate the hatred and discrimination that drove World War II, it also called on us all to act towards one another in a spirit of “brotherhood”, and affirmed the right of every person to be protected against discrimination.

It drew on the revolutionary charters of the Enlightenment, the United States and French constitutions. Both protected free speech, with the Americans emphasising the equality of all people and the French stating liberty is the freedom to do anything which doesn’t harm others.

When speech threatens others, or is abusively discriminatory, then it has the potential to cause harm and encroach on the freedom of others.

As with the heritage that inspired it, our Bill of Rights recognises what it describes as justified limitations. It does so to ensure the exercise of a freedom by one person does not deny freedom to others.

Drawing the line is not simple. Protecting freedom of speech that challenges authority and orthodoxy will inevitably still cause offence to some.

But just being offensive or disagreeable does not necessarily make something harmful. Controversial issues in New Zealand, such as immigration policy or indigenous rights and reconciliation with the Treaty of Waitangi, will continue to be the subject of public debate. And so they should.

Protecting our crucially important right to freedom of speech, while testing whether the balance is right regarding “hate speech”, needs a robust public discussion from all quarters. This way we will ensure that all of our citizens’ rights are protected, and every person can express their humanity without fear.

Whale Oil inciting anti-Christian/anti-Muslim anger

Whale Oil posts continue to try to drive up anger and intolerance towards Muslims in New Zealand, while trying to claim that Christians are the victims of an unfair lack of sympathy.

After the Christchurch mosque attacks here was an effort made by some, including here on Your NZ, to attack politicians (mainly Jacinda Ardern) and media for what was claimed to be a disparity between reacting to and reporting of one of the only and by far the worst terrorist attacks in new Zealand, compared to one f many attacks in Nigeria in a long running internal war.

From a New Zealand there was little comparison between the two, but that didn’t stop attempts to equate them and to dump on anyone who hadn’t reported them in a similar manner.

Soon after the bombings in Sri Lanka this meme was launched as if it was prepared for. One of the first to attack was nasty UK alt-right activist Katie Hopkins, who slammed Jacinda Ardern for responding differently to an attack in a foreign country to one in the country she is Prime Minister of.

This was supported repeated in social media here. It’s as if they are trying to be some sort of speech police, condemning anyone who doesn’t word their condemnations to their satisfaction. But it also looks like an attempt to paint ‘Christians’ as the victims, and to drive up anger against Islam and by association Muslims.

David Farrar ridiculed the Hopkins effect at Kiwiblog: Defending Jacinda from Katie Hopkins

Jacinda Ardern is not the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. She is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Why on earth would she do anything in response to an attack in another country, except the normal expressions of sympathy?

I still don’t get how people get so worked up over a display of empathy to the Muslim community in New Zealand. It was genuine and a great idea.

The sensible comparison is would she have done the same if another religious minority was slaughtered in New Zealand, and I am sure the answer would be yes. If 50 Jews had been killed while praying at a synagogue in New Zealand, then Ardern would probably have worn a kippah or yarmulke as a sign of respect and empathy.

There’s so much legitimate stuff to criticise Ardern on, that it drives me crazy that people get worked up on this.

Of course being attacked by Katie Hopkins is akin to being savaged by Chloe of Wainuiomata.

That’s an unfair comparison, more Kiwis will have heard of Chloe.

But as has become the norm at Kiwiblog, comments ran in the other direction, likke this well upticked comment from Simonp:

I think the point is that no Muslim leader would show empathy for any Christian attack in the same way and that Jacinda did. Equally, Jacinda wishes the Muslim community happy Ramadan but fails to wish the New Zealand happy Easter. It comes across as fear and pandering and could embolden extremists. Hopkins was challenging Jacinda to make an equally bold statement in support of Christianity.

Not really. Hopkins was attacking Ardern for showing sympathy and empathy for Muslims in New Zealand, but not naming Christians as victims in Sri Lanka in her first brief official response.  Ardern referred to “bombings there on Easter Sunday”, a fairly obvious Christian reference. She also referred to “an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels”, which seems sensible given the hotel attacks were not obviously targeting one religion over any others.

Nukuleka:

Virtue signalling is virtue signalling and is no sign of genuine grief. It is merely a form of superfluous and superficial egotism. There may indeed be genuine sympathy felt beneath the outward ‘look- at -me’ show, and sincere grief felt – that is for no-one to judge- but there is never a need to wave a flag, or don a hijab in this instance, to let the world know just how sincere and deep your feelings are. Such people deserve mockery.

‘Virue signalling’ is one of those pejoratives that I have difficulty knowing what people actually mean – or if they know what it means. Is Hopkins virtue signalling? She certainly promotes the virtues of Christians and slams the virtues of Muslims, as do a number of commenters at Kiwiblog (some argued against).

While Kiwiblog simmers and seethes beneath the surface in comments threads, Whale Oil also drives a religious divide in posts.

Whale Oil has championed Hopkins for years. They (they now being under the management, guidance  and apparent control of Juana Atkins)  jumped on the Hopkins bashwagon following the Sri Lanka attacks.

‘Whaleoil staff’ posted the first Hopkins tweet as Tweet of the Day on Monday, which haad some predictable responses, including this from ‘Sunshine’:

Christians all over the world are hunted at the moment not because they are Christians, but because they represent western civilisation. Ardern and her ilk want to ‘fundamentally transform’ the west, as Barry Soetoro once said.

That is laden with conspiracy theorising (actually they are not theories, they are dirty memes) – in particular, that it is a clash of civilisations with Christians as the victims.

The following day Atkins posted Things that make me go hmm under ‘SB’ (one of her pseudonyms), where she nitpicked Theresa May tweets on the Christchurch and Sri Lanka attacks, followed by another ridiculous Hopkins quote:

Why does Islam always matter more to Christian leaders?

That doesn’t even make sense to me. It prompted typical (for a tightly controlled forum like Whale Oil) responses, like this from Boondecker:

“Violence against churches and hotels… ” – what an odd thing to say/tweet in the circumstances. There appears to be a very strange but obvious disconnect when you become a political leader. No wonder they’re rated even below car and insurance salesmen in terms of trustworthiness (the mainstream media are the only crowd that’s worse).

“Violence against churches and hotels” is fairly accurate for a brief generalised tweet. ‘Churches’ is synonymous with ‘Christian’:

church
noun
1. a building used for public Christian worship

And several hotels were also bombed.

Yesterday the anger meme was promoted in Growing anger over anti-Christian terror denialism

Anger is growing around the world at the blatant disparity and hypocrisy of the media and political elite in their reactions to terrorism, depending on who the victims are.

Of course no proof is provided that anger is growing anywhere. What this looks like is an attempt to grow anger in New Zealand.

Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. It shouldn’t matter who the innocent victims are: Muslims in a market in Quetta or in a mosque in Christchurch, or Christians on the streets of Rome or in churches in Sri Lanka. But, as we are seeing after the Easter carnage in Sri Lanka, it matters very much to the media-political elite who the victims are.

Christians are way down on the Victim Totem Pole.

Not at Whale Oil, where they are playing the ‘Christians are victims in a clash of civilisations’ card hard.

As per the standard narrative, no matter who is shredded by terrorists’ bombs, the real victims, as far as the media-political elite are concerned, are always Muslims.

That’s just pathetic nonsense.

But it’s dangerous nonsense. Whale Oil, with Atkins leading the charge now, is trying to drive up anger and division between Muslims and Christians.

Whale Oil has also actively promoted gun rights including the ‘right’ to own military style weapons. The blog attracts people who like firearms, and it attracts people who see Christians as victims, who see ‘Western civilisation’ under threat, and see Islam and Muslims as the threat.

As the 50 Christchurch murders showed, it only takes one person to believe this sort of persistent inflammatory claptrap to escalate things into extreme violence.

Probably all of the posts and most of the comments at Whale Oil would fall short of any hate speech laws – certainly the laws we currently have. But the sum of all the parts, the ongoing inciting posts (often multiple in a day) and the comments in support, looks like a campaign of hate and intolerance and division. It is difficult to legislate against that.

But this sort of campaign of fear mongering and hate should be called out for what it is, and should those who are responsible for it.

New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media

Without knowing any details I don’t know whether the be pleased or concerned about attempts by the New Zealand Government to lead a crackdown on social media.

It is too easy for people and organisations to spread false and damaging information via social media, but attempts to deal with this could easily lurch too far in limiting freedom of expression.

NZ Herald – Social media crackdown: How New Zealand is leading the global charge

Steps towards global regulation of social media companies to rein in harmful content looks likely, with the Government set to take a lead role in a global initiative, the Herald has learned.

The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, where Facebook and Instagram were temporarily shut down in that country to stop the spread of false news reports.

Following the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been working towards a global co-ordinated response that would make the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter more responsible for the content they host.

The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.

Currently multinational social media companies have to comply with New Zealand law, but they also have an out-clause – called the safe harbour provisions – that means they may not be legally liable for what users publish on their sites, though these were not used in relation to the livestream video of the massacre in Christchurch.

Other countries, including Australia, are taking a more hardline approach that puts more onus on these companies to block harmful content, but the Government has decided a global response would be more effective, given the companies’ global reach.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism for what many see as its failure to immediately take down the livestream and minimise its spread; Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within 24 hours.

They were too ineffective and too slow – that they took down one and a half million copies shows how quickly the video spread before action was taken.

Ardern has said this wasn’t good enough, saying shortly after the Christchurch terror attack: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published.”

Among those adding their voices to this sentiment were the bosses of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees and the managers of five government-related funds, who all called on social media companies to do more to combat harmful content.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has also been scathing, calling Facebook “morally bankrupt” and saying it should take immediate action to make its services safe.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that existing laws and protections were not enough to stop the online proliferation of the gunman’s video.

He doubted that changing any New Zealand laws would be effective, and echoed Ardern in saying that a global solution was ideal.

But it is generally much harder to get international agreement on restrictive laws, so a global solution may be very difficult to achieve. Actually there is never likely to be ‘a solution’, all they can do is make it harder for bad stuff to proliferate.

The UK is currently considering a white paper on online harms that proposes a “statutory duty of care” for online content hosts.

Rules would be set up and enforced by an independent regulator, which would demand illegal content to be blocked within “an expedient timeframe”. Failure to comply could lead to substantial fines or even shutting down the service.

The problem is an effective timeframe has to be just about instant.

In Australia a law was recently passed that requires hosting services to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously” or face up to three years’ jail or fines in the millions of dollars.

Germany also has a law that gives social media companies an hour to remove “manifestly unlawful” posts such as hate speech, or face a fine up to 50 million Euros.

And the European Union is considering regulations that would give social media platforms an hour to remove or disable online terrorist content.

In New Zealand multiple laws – including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Crimes Act – dictate what can and cannot be published on social media platforms.

While Ardern has ruled out a model such as Australia’s, changes to New Zealand law could still happen following the current review of hate speech.

Legally defining ‘hate speech’ wil be difficult enough, and applying laws governing speech will require decisions and judgements to be made by people. That could be very difficult to do effectively.

 

 

Shameful, disgraceful attack on Golriz Gharaman by ‘David Hughes’

Green MP Golriz Gharaman has been the target of frequent attacks in social media. She highlighted this one that combines an attack on her with an attack on Muslims posted on Facebook yesterday:

The whole image (from Facebook):

That’s bad, and it’s sad to see this sort of thing continuing. Members of Parliament (or anyone) should not be targeted with this sort of scurrilous misinformation and abuse.

Ghahraman confronted him on Facebook:

Golriz Ghahraman Given you know I’m not Muslim and my family had to leave Iran due to persecution by a purportedly Islamic regime, this is both a lie and hate speech. Be ashamed.

But he seems far from ashamed. He also posted further accusations, plus this:

As to your moronic charge of “hate speech”, fiddlesticks, you don’t even know what that might be beyond some infantile catch cry for your sycophants.

But I do love that we live in a liberal Democracy where we can have this discussion confident that we have the right to freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas enshrined in some of our most important legislation whilst being very well protected from the excesses that occasionally raise their ugly heads (an example of one such lying excess is attached for your elucidation).

Our laws around freedom of expression are very comprehensive, allowing us to exercise our God given right to freely express our ideas (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: Sec 14 reinforced by Sec 5 & 6) whilst protecting people from ugly excesses (Human Rights Act 1993: Sec 61 etc, sec 131, etc and Summary Offences Act1981: sec 3 & 4 etc).

We also have a range of legislation to protect people from defamation and libel as well as a huge body of legal precedents to tell us exactly where the courts have ruled the boundaries are and what crosses them.

So he thinks he is legally justified in posting this sort of thing.

You perhaps need to spend some time reading through the relevant Law Reports. They are truly as fascinating as they are educational.

I will never be ashamed for speaking out against hateful people who would destroy my country and deliver us to our enemies.

And he thinks he is morally justified. I think it is morally repugnant from David Hughes.

This is a shameful and n insidious religious and political attack.

According to some comments it has been reported to Facebook, but as of now it is still up, and getting some support amongst the criticism.

There does seem to be hate in Hughes’ speech, and it is likely to encourage or provoke more intolerance and fear and hate – it has attracted some support.

This David Hughes (if that is his name)  deserves to be shamed.

I think that at times Gharaman has gone to far in what she has promoted, and what she has supported in controlling ‘hate speech’, but with ongoing attacks like this it’s understandable that she might get frustrated and may want something done to stem this sort of dirty politics.


Note: comments on this post should be confined to the Facebook post and what it means for politics, religion and free speech, whether this sort of ‘free speech’ is appropriate, whether it should be limited by law, and what should be done about it.

Please don’t divert into general or historic criticism or commentary on Ghahraman or Muslims.